For some, a divorce has a positive effect on their work, study finds

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By Amit


Delmaine Donson | E+ | Getty Images

Getting divorced is often considered one of the most stressful life events. But, for some people, there could be an unintended positive outcome to splitting up: A boost in their work performance.

In a study of people in the process of divorce, which is online in advance of publication in the scientific journal Personnel Psychology, nearly 39% of respondents said parting with their spouse positively affected their work. Around 44% of respondents, meanwhile, said divorce had a negative impact on their career.

The fact that more than a third of people found divorce led them to perform better at their jobs came as a surprise to study co-author Connie Wanberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota who researches people’s experiences in the workplace.

“There is a societal assumption that divorce is always negative,” Wanberg said. But, she said, “some of these individuals had been in very dysfunctional relationships, and getting away from that relationship allowed them to have a new outlook on life. Some people decided to renew their focus on work and focus on advancement.”

In 2021, there were close to 690,000 divorces or annulments in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over a third of Americans between the ages of 25 and 65 have divorced or are currently in the process of divorcing, according to the study by Wanberg and her co-authors.

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Relationship struggles ‘took away from work’

Divorce involves many unpleasant experiences and stressful steps, Wanberg said.

“You have to move or navigate division of belongings,” she said. “You have to tell friends and family. You have to visit a lawyer, sometimes multiple times. These can all impact your feelings at work.”

But for some people, these difficulties, Wanberg said, “are overweighed by the benefits of getting away from a bad relationship.”



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